The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer: Expectations for CEOs report reveals that 76 percent of people agree that CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose it — an 11-point increase from the 2018 study. Further, 71 percent of employees agree that it’s critically important for their CEO to respond to challenging times, including industry issues, political events, national crises and employee-driven issues.

Yet the study shows that CEOs are falling short of expectations among employees, underperforming in their societal leadership and in areas of ethics and character:

  • There is a 6-point performance gap between employees who say they expect CEOs to speak up on controversial political and social issues and those who agree they are doing so.
  • There is a 13-point performance gap between employees who expect CEOs to embody their organization’s values and those who agree they are doing so.
  • There is a 24-point gap between employees who say that when considering a prospective employer, they expect that its management will always tell the truth and those who agree management is doing so.

To help CEOs close these gaps, the report recommends a set of directives for more authentic CEO leadership, including communicating more directly and personally, modeling work/life balance, living the company’s values, and putting employees first by focusing on the issues they care about.